I don’t consider myself a soapbox preacher, but the issue of texting and driving is one of those that gets me going. It frustrates me to no end that people think those little messages are so important that they are worth endangering lives over. Of course, the problem is that no one really believes they’re endangering anyone. “I know what I’m doing,” and “It won’t happen to me” are the mantras of the texters.
This is what my neighbor thought, too, until the day she was checking a text and plowed into the back of the vehicle in front of her. The car in front stopped suddenly to avoid a kid that ran into the crosswalk. Had my neighbor been paying attention, she could have stopped in time. Since she wasn’t… Bam. No one was killed, but the driver of the other car was hurt and my neighbor hurt her neck and back.
People always talk about the human cost of texting and driving; the lives lost, the injuries, the disabilities. This is all tragic and reason enough to stop texting and driving. But few talk about the monetary costs. These can be just as devastating. From talking to my neighbor, it looks like she’s dug a financial hole for herself that will bury her for quite some time to come. Here’s brief listing of her new problems.
Her insurance company immediately dropped her and no other carrier will take her. In a state where you must carry at least liability insurance to operate a vehicle, this essentially means that she can no longer drive. She now must use public transportation or find a carpool to get to work and run errands. (And since where we live has a cruddy public transportation system and very little is within walking distance, she’s likely going to have to move closer to the center of town.) She might qualify for insurance several years from now, but it’s going to be at much higher rates. Unless she can figure out a suitable arrangement soon, she’s going to put her job in jeopardy. If she does find an arrangement, she’ll have to foot the costs for public transit or moving to a location within walking distance to work.
Her car was totaled. The car was, of course, worth less than what she still owed on it. The insurance company paid $18,300, but she owes $25,800 (I think this might be due to having some older loans rolled into the current loan). She now has to come up with $7,500 on her own to pay off the lender. At least she doesn’t have to also buy a new car right away, since she can’t drive.
Aside from everything else, she has to pay the $100 fine for texting and driving, plus court costs. Seems pretty minor compared to the rest of it.
My neighbor is being sued by the person she hit (or their insurance company, I’m not sure which). Her insurance only covered a portion of the injuries to the other driver, so the driver is suing for the difference, plus lost wages, the damages to their car, “distress,” and other nebulous claims that could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Since my neighbor doesn’t have an umbrella policy, she’s going to have to pay for any judgment out of pocket. Even if she wins, she’s still going to have to pay hefty legal fees to get out of this mess.
Injuries to Herself
While her insurance is picking up the tab for her injuries, she’s got a $5,000 deductible to meet before they kick in with 100% coverage. Should she lose her job and her health insurance, future treatments might not be affordable at all. The best she could hope for might be to buy COBRA insurance, but COBRA is often prohibitively expensive.
She’s having to deal with missed work due to her injuries. She doesn’t have a disability insurance policy, so if she can no longer work, she’s not going to have an income. Right now she’s used all of her vacation and sick leave, so she’s not getting paid and she’s on the good grace of her employer who has not terminated her employment. Yet. Should she be unable to work or her employer needs more than she can do, her employer will have no choice but to let her go.
Not like it really matters, since with no insurance she can’t drive, but her license was suspended for 120 days. To get it back, she’ll have to attend a driving class which will cost about $200.
All of this is going to be on her record for years. It may negatively impact her applications for credit and jobs even years from now.
Today my neighbor is in the hole for at least $12,800. Those are the only costs she knows about today. That doesn’t count the lost wages, any moving or public transportation costs, potential job loss, COBRA payments, long-term medical care, the long-term dings on her credit and driving records, or the results of the lawsuit. For someone who only makes an average income, this is devastating. And it all could have been avoided if she’d just left the phone alone.
So even if you don’t worry about killing or injuring someone when you text and drive, you might want to at least worry about the financial costs of texting and driving. Even if you manage not to kill someone, the amount of money you can lose is the kind that can permanently derail your dreams and make it so you can never retire or have the things and experiences you want in life.
(Photo courtesy of mrJasonWeaver)